There is a manager that has more FIFA Club World Cup appearances than Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho combined. He is Spanish and his name is Ramón Tribulietx, a key figure in New Zealand football and the man who has transformed Auckland City in the most successful club in the country. “I was seduced by its culture in the first moment”, explains to Digital Football Community. His first experience in New Zealand was in the late 90s as a player. One decade later, he returned to build the greatest dynasty the region has witnessed, leading Auckland City to six Champions League of Oceania in a row.
Signed after a Facebook DM
For a medium-profile player, Auckland City is the straightest route to the Club World Cup, one of the most popular tournaments on earth. “We receive hundreds of messages applying for a job”, says Tribulietx. “They see the WC as a tool to gain visibility and take their career to the next level. They contact me on Facebook, LinkedIN and even Twitter”.
Nowadays it’s virtually impossible to get a contract via Facebook, but there was a time when signing for Auckland City could be a direct message away. “Ángel Berlanga and Albert Riera were signed as a result of a Facebook conversation. They sent me a message asking for a job opportunity. They took part in a personal tryout and we signed them. They’ve been very important for us since then”. Right now, the online applicants are not talented enough in general terms to join the most successful club in the region.
Looking for an adventure
There are twelve international players in Auckland City’s squad. Eñaut Zubikarai, former goalkeeper of Real Sociedad with 57 appearances in LaLiga and the Second Division, is the player with the greatest career in the big leagues. “He was looking for an adventure, a personal experience. Football is not the main reason he is with us now”. For the most of the international players, football is the main reason. “Angel’s career was stuck in the Spanish Third Division and he decided to gamble and fly 20.000 kilometres”.
The club Berlanga joined six years ago was the prototype of Tribulietx amazing creation. Currently there are fourteen players in Auckland City that make a living exclusively out of football, a number impossible to imagine when the Spanish manager took over in 2010. FIFA doesn’t consider them ‘professionals’ because they are hired as coaches. “ It is very useful for them because it helps them to be more engaged with the club and the community”. In economic terms, New Zealand is quite interesting for these medium-profile players. “The salaries are similar to the Spanish Segunda B top teams”.
The greatest challenge international players have to face on the pitch has to do with the physical power of the locals. “They usually have problems in the final third of the game in their first couple of months in the league. You might believe from the outside that you will overcome this deficit with technique, but it’s not easy”.
Auckland City is a special club in New Zealand and not only because of its success. “We’re almost the only team with a passing style. Despite football has evolved here, they’re still very physical”. This sophistication pays off for Tribulietx and his team.